80, 90, 100km/h...and brace. My stomach churns as we become airborne and then crash back down to earth. We've just cleared a jump in the all-new 2019 Ford Ranger Raptor!
Exclusively revealed by CarAdvice back in 2015, the Ranger Raptor has been a passion project for the Australian T6 home room. It's here in Australia that Ford led the design and engineering work on Ranger Raptor, so the Australian DNA is well and truly embedded into every part of this vehicle.
Don't make the mistake of thinking this is just another variant of the Ranger. In addition to a new design and a 150mm wider track, it has a long list of changes that make this quite a unique product – and it definitely needs to be, to justify the $74,900 (plus on-road costs) price tag.
Let's start with the engine under the bonnet. It's a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine that produces 157kW of power and 500Nm of torque (between 1750-2000rpm) and it's mated to a new 10-speed automatic gearbox – there's no manual available. It features a cast iron block with direct injection and four valves per cylinder.
Width: 2180mm (with mirrors)
Towing: 2500kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked)
0-100km/h: 10.4 seconds
The official fuel consumption figure comes in at 8.2 litres of fuel per 100km on the combined cycle. How does that compare to the 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel in the current Ranger? It's better, but not by much – 8.7L/100km v 8.2/100km. That's partly thanks to its hefty kerb weight – 2404kg compared to the Ranger Wildtrak, which comes in at 2289kg.
Torque is regularly sent to the rear axle with a four-wheel-drive high-range mode and finally a four-wheel-drive low-range mode available. There's also a rear differential lock that can be activated in all three drive modes — unlike some dual-cab utes that only allow the rear differential lock to be activated in low-range.
There's also four-wheel disc brakes (compared to rear drum brakes on non-Raptor Rangers), which measure 332mm with ventilated front rotors with twin-piston callipers (up 9.5mm), while the rear uses 332mm rotors with 54mm callipers.
The Ranger Raptor wears a set of BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres that measure 285mm wide at the rear with a 70 profile. The tyres sit on 17-inch wheels with an 838mm front diameter and thick sidewalls.
Under the skin is a chassis frame tailored to high-speed use off-road, new coilover rear suspension using a Watt's link setup and solid rear axle, and stiffened side rails. You also get reinforced spare-tyre mounting cross members, adapted to the Ranger Raptor's larger 17-inch wheel and off-road tyre package.
The shock absorbers are Fox 2.5 with an internal bypass at the front and remote reservoir at the rear.
This suspension and tyre setup affords the Ranger Raptor an epic 283mm ground clearance – eclipsing every other dual-cab ute in this segment. The sum of body changes has also improved the Ranger Raptor's off-road ability, offering approach, ramp-over and departure angles of 32.5/24/24 degrees respectively – the Wildtrak offers 29 degrees for approach and 21 degrees for departure in comparison.
Before we get into how the Raptor performs on its home turf, let's talk about the engine. Power and torque is up, but the engine itself doesn't feel like the huge leap forward it should be. If you put aside the fact it's the same engine that will be introduced as an option on the MY19 Ranger range, it just doesn't have the punch you'd expect from an engine in a Raptor model.
The 10-speed automatic gearbox is good — it's fuss-free and always manages to slot into the right gear. While the twin-turbocharged four-cylinder engine works well at low speeds in and around town, it's when the speeds pick up that it feels underdone.
We were three-up with a load of camera gear on our drive along the Stuart Highway towards Adelaide River. At speeds of around 100-130kmh, as you punch the throttle to overtake, there isn't a great deal of urgency. There's noise, but not a lot of shove in the back. This will be amplified as you add more load and people to the car. We were just expecting a little more from the drivetrain.
On the topic of noise, the engine has a similar note to the 3.2-litre five-cylinder unit currently featured in Ranger, which is definitely a good thing. Around town the engine is responsive and offers a decent amount of punch. The softer tune on the suspension also means the body lifts slightly as you get on the throttle to drive away.
Our drive led us south from Darwin towards Tipperary Station – a huge 210,000 hectare cattle station that would be the base for our extended drive program. The drive included networks of rutted and corrugated gravel roads, an off-road course to test the Ranger Raptor's four-wheel drive system and finally a custom built high-speed course to see how the Ranger Raptor performs over jumps.
You will be totally blown away with how the Ranger Raptor rides on unsealed, corrugated and rutted surfaces. This suspension system isn't just a quick chop and change from a regular Ranger. The Watt's linkage works in unison with the Fox shock absorbers to deliver a ride unparalleled in this segment.
To demonstrate this, Ford sent us along the types of gravel roads that you would normally drive through cautiously, in fear of catching bull dust or a giant pot hole. Unperturbed by this, the Ranger Raptor would catch washed-away sections of road and power over them. Mid-corner bumps would progressively shift the body and when you finally discovered a bump big enough to get airborne, the body would crash back to earth with grace.
Taking this to the next level, Ford fit two of its pre-production vehicles with full roll cages and race seats. The course its engineers set up was designed to show us just how much give there is in the suspension and how the body reacts when it's smashed over corrugations, soft sand and eventually a jump that would see all four wheels leave the ground and cause the car to hit the ground on a full suspension compression.
The experience of leaving the ground and crashing back down was crazy – not because it was rough and uneasy, but because even when going from full extension to full compression the landing was soft and gentle and totally unexpected. I'm certain that 99.99 per cent of drivers will never do anything like this in their vehicle, but knowing just how capable it is will be enough for the ultimate bragging rights.
Ranger Raptor offers a number of drive programs for on- and off-road use. They range from Normal to Sport, then grass/gravel/snow, and mud/sand, Baja and Rock. Each mode is capable of adjusting traction and stability controls to cater for the surface being driven on and will offer instructions for selecting the correct drive moves if required. Baja is the mode you want for playing in the dirt with free stability control movements.
Trade the unsealed roads and jumps for sealed roads and the Ranger Raptor performs just as well through corners. The BF Goodrich tyres offer stacks of grip and the suspension keeps the car relatively flat through corners. Where the Ranger would kick the back end and scuttle the body slightly over mid-corner bumps, the Ranger Raptor takes the hits nicely and keeps the rear end settled.
The Ranger's four-wheel drive system is one of the best in the business. It features an easy-to-use switch that moves between high-range two- and four-wheel drive and low-range four-wheel drive. Then there are separate buttons for the rear differential lock, the stop-start system and the hill descent control.
We were able to test the Ranger Raptor on a variety of courses including an offset mogul, steep hill climb and a graduated descent. On the offset mogul, the tyres did a great job of digging in, while the four-wheel drive system shuffled torque effortlessly between the axles. I also tried opening and closing the door to test structural rigidity when diagonal wheels were off the ground and the door opened and closed without any issues.
Again, up and down hills was a non event. Climbing hills with these tyres is like stealing candy from kids – it genuinely feels unstoppable. Going the other way, hill descent control speed can be gradually modified using the cruise control speed selector. Also a piece of cake.
Sitting beneath the Ranger Raptor's body is a stack of underbody protection, made from 2.3mm thick high strength steel to prevent rocks and other sharp objects damaging the car while driving off road. It's a great detail and protects the entire bottom end at the front of the car, including all the cooling elements. Driving on grass will no longer be an issue thanks to the diesel particulate filter (DPF) being shifted higher into the body with a much smarter heat shield.
If you're looking for the exhaust pipe, it has moved from the bumper side of the differential to just before it, with a dump pipe design that points downwards.
New to Ranger is a keyless entry and start system, plus a new torsion-beam-controlled tailgate that makes opening and closing a breeze. Crack the driver's door open and you're immediately presented with a cool looking interior. The steering wheel is chunky and sits nicely in the hands with a centre red strap designed to help with wheel positioning during faster driving. Stepping into the cabin comes courtesy of giant magnesium die cast side steps that flank the sides of the car.
Slotted in behind the wheel are a set of paddle shifters that can be grabbed at any time to whip through gears. These things are great – they have a polished metal finish and are long, which makes them easy to grab when you're hunting for the next gear. The seats are unique to Ranger Raptor and hug you in nicely with 'technical suede' trim around the edges, plus seat heating.
Beneath the heating and cooling controls, Ford has dropped one of the 12V outlets and swapped it for a USB outlet. So now there's one 12V outlet up front, plus two USB ports. In the second row you'll find a 240V universal power outlet. Leg and headroom in the second row is much the same as the Ranger we know.
Infotainment comes in the form of Ford's excellent Sync3 infotainment system that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with an excellent voice recognition system for a host of user driven commands. You can even pass commands through to Siri and the Google equivalent when paired to Bluetooth.
Let's talk about the negatives. AEB...there's none of it. Radar cruise control...it's not there either. You'll find AEB on cars like the $14,190 Kia Picanto, but Ford didn't manage to engineer it for the Ranger Raptor platform.
While the interior is nice, it doesn't really feel like a $75,000 car. There's plenty of scratchy plastic around the doors and dashboard. The seats too are nice, but your passenger will be manually adjusting theirs and your rear occupants will need to live life without air vents.
We also found the gearbox could be fussy at times when trying to shift gears under throttle – for example, grabbing the upshift from second to third while under throttle could sometimes result in a gear shift not happening.
Going back through the gears, there was sometimes hesitation when the car wasn't in its rev band for the lower gear, but there was no message to suggest it was an issue, it just required continuous pulls of the paddle shifter. Slightly annoying and problematic if you're trying to row through eight gears on your way down to a corner.
The biggest negative is the lack of straight line performance from the 2.0-litre diesel. We strapped the VBox to the Ranger Raptor and recorded a 0-100km/h time of 10.4 seconds, which is marginally better than the 10.5 second official figure. To put that into perspective, we've previously clocked the 3.2-litre Ranger at 11.1 seconds, but you'll be hosed at the lights by anybody in a Colorado, which we've clocked at 9.7 seconds to 100km/h and well and truly hosed by a V6 Amarok at 7.9 seconds.
Servicing costs for the new 2.0-litre engine are yet to be confirmed, but we do know the Ranger Raptor will launch with a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty with roadside assistance. And, before you ask, the warranty doesn't cover jumping your ute.
So that is the Ford Ranger Raptor. Is it impressive? Absolutely – it's a total weapon and drives and feels completely different to the regular Ford Ranger. But, at $75,000, it's a stack of cash and I personally wouldn't spend that kind of money on a car that lacks technology like AEB and radar cruise control.
Still, if you're not fussed about that and want what is now the absolute best off-road dual-cab performance ute on the market, get your orders in fast because it's selling like hot cakes.
Want more? Listen to the full discussion below and catch more of the CarAdvice podcast here.